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FISSURE: A Life Between Cultures

THE STORY BASKET: On Counseling Children

…in the aftermath of violent histories, telling stories and listening to stories are acts of peace. ~ Connie Braun, Silentium

All day long these children and I
trade stories
we weave colors and textures
we write together in journals
we tell what it is all about
we trade love for love
I hold their tears

I am the story basket
and in me the stories change
color and shape and sound
they take on rhythm
drum beats

heart beats
they dance and weave
and one day
if I am so blessed,
I give them back
changed a little
I hope

I am the hearer
the listener
the spinner
the trader of tales

I hate my mother, the girl seethes
through clenched teeth
plots with her friends
how to do her mother in
I ask if I need to warn her mother
then do my best to give
her a mother who is not
all bad

The boy with the pinched blue face
handsomely terrified
tells me his father threw him
to the floor after breakfast
kicked his ribs
told him he is the dirt he walks on
I tell him the story of the man
who walked through four concentration camps
the man who chose to find other meaning
the man who made a goal
You can do it, too, I say
Your father may never be able to be
the father you deserve
but you can Be

After it
I make the call
the one of many many
to the agency that is
to protect children
I tell the boy I will do it
first he is worried then
unlike some
he is glad

I am the holder of children’s nightmares
and dreams
the basket of song
and prayer sticks
masks and stones
and good bread

I am the teller of tales
I tell stories wild
and wonderful
and funny as often as I can

I tell about the old Native woman
who lived past a hundred
not because she ate well
or exercised
or didn’t smoke or drink
but because she didn’t argue
the woman who always said Could Be
no one believed her
because it was too simple
but not easy
the children wonder Could Be
and they laugh
they need to laugh
and soon
they tell the Could Be
to each other

I tell the story of the Navajo rug
as finished when it is the size of my hand
as when it fills a room
because one of their own has died
and they need
with desperation to find
some sense to it

I am the hearer
the one who listens
I am the basket that
cradles their stories
loves their stories

I am the warm waterfall
that shushes over them
through them
down their young backs
slumped in the chair
or sometimes
straight and drum-tight

These are the children of my heart
I hold their stories for them
turn them gently
in my palm
the jagged ones
the hollow ones
the ones in black and white
the ones in fragments
the ones of great flowing color
the ones made from cookie cutters
always the same
frozen jello that I jiggle
when I hope it’s safe

I give them back their stories
we trade stories for stories
can this story get a new life
can the hero find the key
the adventurer the treasure
will the dancer put out one toe
and be swept away to her Self

This poem is a reprint of a post from January 2018, found back then on yellow legal paper in a box with other papers. It had poured out of me in my office, between children, when I was a counselor at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque, a school filled with high-risk, beautiful children. It also draws from times in private practice and at Cuba Elementary and Middle Schools.

© Anna Redsand All Rights Reserved

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